November 28, 2017

NO REPRESENTATION WITHOUT TAXATION:

We Have Not a Government: The Articles of Confederation and the Road to the Constitution By George William Van Cleve (Reviewed by David O. Stewart, November 28, 2017, Washington Independent Review of Books)

How did the architects of this structure of stalemate expect anything to get done?

The answer, of course, was that they didn't want a national government that could do very much. Republican theory, and their experience with the British empire, left many Americans hostile to centralized government powers, a hostility that could only be eroded by experience under the weak regime they thought they wanted.

With careful attention and rich research, this book examines in depth each of the ways that the Confederation failed. It could not pay its debts. It could not protect its people in conflicts with Indians or foreign powers, or even from pirates. It could not create a single currency or build prosperity after the terrible carnage and loss of the Revolutionary War.

Finally, it could not resolve conflicts between or within the states. After only a few years under the Articles, leading figures wondered when and how the United States would fall apart.

The lodestar of Van Cleve's story is George Washington, as he should be. In vivid language, Washington predicted that, without a stronger government, "Anarchy and confusion must prevail," and the United States "shall soon molder into dust and become contemptible."

The book argues persuasively that Washington diagnosed the core weakness of the Articles: that a government unable to levy a tax is not an actual government.



Posted by at November 28, 2017 8:00 AM

  

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